In a recent episode of Koffee With Karan, the television talk-show hosted by Karan Johar, Bollywood star Shahid Kapoor and his wife Mira Rajput spiced up an otherwise snooze-fest of a season. This was the couple's first appearance on a talk show and they spoke candidly about their life together.
But the candid talk left many viewers with a not altogether pleasant aftertaste, after they heard Shahid Kapoor's views on arranged marriage. Kapoor confessed that he is a big supporter of the institution. "It's unlike a romantic relationship where you always feel like the peak of the love was in the beginning," he said. "And after[wards] you're left wondering, 'When will those times come again?'" The couple also said that they fell in love only after Mira had conceived.
Many people were thankful to the couple for publicly coming out in support of arranged marriages. And then, there were some who said that the decision of whom to marry and how should be left on the not-so-tender shoulders of consenting adults. There were also people who were troubled because they felt that the institution of arranged marriage did not need any more advocacy. Many consider the idea that it is one's right to choose her or his children's life-partner quite regressive.
A report published on the Hindu in 2014, said that only 18 percent women knew their husbands before their wedding. However, on an average, the numbers were better for younger women and women who were better educated. The survey also threw up a revealing statistic -- in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Gujarat and Maharashtra, 90 percent of the marriages were arranged.
So, post the Shahid-Mira television interview, many people on social media forums such as Quora voiced their apprehension about what they felt was an advertisement for a regressive practice. Quora turned into a forum for a lively discussion on the subject with many putting forth their views on this old debate.
"When you don't have anyone who asked you out, you easily make an excuse that you've to listen to your parents and agree to arranged marriage, etc," a Quora user wrote. "Also, when many alliances [have] rejected you, you have to accept the one who says yes to you because we are living in Indian culture wherein by certain age we need to get marry or you're a loser in everyone's eye."
"It is the competition of guesses where the best guess takes your one step close to your decision."
Ashish Rudraksh Kumar wrote that contrary to popular belief, arranged marriages are based on flimsy foundations. "Arranged marriages, as far as bride and groom is concerned, is an arrow in the dark (unless they've known each other before somehow)," he wrote. "It is the competition of guesses where the best guess takes your one step close to your decision. Because lets face it, everyone puts there best foot forward when it comes to impress your prospective bride or groom."
Another user wrote how he could not make up his mind about his fiancee and refused to marry the girl a week before the wedding. "I really feel sorry for the girl, her family, my family... but I feel crushed under my own fickleness or lack of assertiveness," he confessed.
But like Shahid and Mira, many strongly support arranged marriages. Gopal Sinha wrote, "We met in the vivah-mandap, before everyone, on the auspicious day of our marriage, never before and were quite unknown to each other. Since then, we are together through thick and thin of life."
"There's no perfect time that you should force yourself to decide within, for marriage."
Anagha Pande, like many others, believes that there are no simple answers when it comes to selecting a life partner. "There is no correct way or tried-and-tested way to go about this. People will always put their best food forward," she wrote."There's no perfect time that you should force yourself to decide within, for marriage. Take your time, get to know the people in person rather than too much of chatting or phone talk. Talking to a person face to face is totally different than chatting with him." Putting the situation in perspective, she added, "At the end of the day, its you who wants to get into a long term marriage and commitment, so choose wisely."
AJ Mishra had his own set of dos and donts for men looking at a prospective life-partner. "Irrespective of what your parents say & what her parents say, first try to learn her level of maturity, sense of humour & ability to do household works," he wrote. "Once you're done with this, take a walk with her, go to a movie with her. If she doesn't talk much, you may take the step to start conversations, make sure she is not hiding anything big. After spending some quality time with her if you believe that you can spend your life with her then go for it, otherwise reject her, because this is a big decision."
The 'arranged vs love marriage' goes back to our parents' and grandparents' times and is unlikely to be settled anytime soon. At the end of the day, however, everyone has the right to marry the person of their choice. They also have a right to listen to their parents' advice and wishes on the matter and act upon it, and not just because an A-lister couple is endorsing arranged marriage.